In this week’s meeting, we explored my colleague Katy’s question from last week: ‘When is it appropriate to open or close?’
We shared accounts of opening and closing, such as these. Our discussion highlighted various instances of opening and closing in teaching:
- Taking more or less open/direct routes through and between topics.
- Setting problems that have one, or more than one, desired response.
- Providing (a list of) key points, or inviting students to do so.
- Closing down or opening dialogic exchanges - e.g. fielding questions, conversations, ...
- Giving students more or less choice about what they do, where they sit, ...
- Prohibiting or encouraging movement around the classroom.
- (Not) Considering views from students about the structure of lessons.
These instances can be categorised along the axis of freedom-constraint across three dimensions: dialogue, time and space. As an example, having a seating plan is a constraint on space.
When making teaching decisions, it might be useful to consider the effects on students learning and well-being of more or less freedom along these dimensions. For each of the instances above, one can conceive - or may have experienced -situations where more or less freedom might be desirable, depending on the context.
The next step is to identify an awareness of when it might be beneficial to open or close in a given situation, that brings an action to mind.
A dialogic example from a colleague this week: He gave a questionnaire to students (an opening), in which he identified that students thought his explanations took too much time. Following the questionnaire I watched a lesson (account 8 in link above); it seemed that it was not his explanations, which are succinct and clear, that were taking too long - it was the range of questions that he was fielding from students that lengthened the explanation, arguably detracting from clarity and brevity of exposition.
There are times to open, and there are times to close. How can we identify which might be most appropriate in the moment, and can we build a repertoire of actions in response?
For more on time as a constraint, read this from @Johnfinney8.
For more on space as a constraint (albeit as an analogy for teaching) read this from @Simon_Gregg.
My next post will contain my thoughts about freedom-constraint in the classroom with regards to space.